10 Big-Ticket Appraisals From the First 25 Years of ‘Antique Roadshow’ (VIDEO)

Antiques Roadshow
PBS/Courtesy of Everett Collection

Though it hasn’t been airing for 40-plus years like its U.K. counterpart, PBSAntiques Roadshow hits the quarter-century mark in 2022. Since the series premiered on January 9, 1997, countless Antiques Roadshow guests have realized their treasures are worth far more than they realized—sometimes hundreds of thousands more.

To celebrate the first 25 years of Antiques Roadshow, we’re looking back at 10 memorable appraisals, from a Picasso plate hiding in plain sight to a million-dollar trove of baseball cards.

1955 Madoura Oval Plate by Pablo Picasso

A guest on Antiques Roadshow’s Season 18 premiere, taped in Boise, Idaho, said her family had owned this plate for decades—and kept it hanging on a wall over the stove, no less—before realizing it was a work of art. Luckily, this woman got a hint about the plate’s worth (not to mention a tip to give it a new setting) when a gallery owner recognized it as a Picasso. And on the show, appraiser Stuart Slavid told the woman her item was worth $10,000 to $15,000, on the “conservative side”!

Diamond Bracelet and Van Cleef & Arpels Ring

A woman who attended an Antiques Roadshow taping in New Orleans explained that she and her husband used to have a monthly dinner date with a friend, who had then left her a diamond bracelet and a pearl ring in her will—the same ring the friend wore to each dinner. Appraiser Kevin Zavian valued the platinum-and-diamond bracelet at $15,000 to $20,000, but it was the ring that was the real showstopper. With a 14-millimeter pearl and six carats of diamonds, the Van Cleef & Arpels piece was worth $20,000 to $30,000.

1607 Galileo Galilei Letter

A rare signed letter from noted astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei stopped the heart of appraiser Francis Wahlgren at an episode filmed in Austin. The content is “warm and friendly” as opposed to scientific, which would have been ideal, as Wahlgren told the letter’s owner. But because it bears Galileo’s signature and was still in such good condition, the letter had a value of $60,000 to $100,000. Not bad for a piece of paper!

1923 Frank Schoonover Oil Painting

A man at an Antiques Roadshow taping in Winterthur, Delaware, was moved to tears when he learned how much his oil painting by Frank Schoonover was worth. And the backstory is just as emotional: The man’s mother saved $5 every week for two years to save up enough to allow his father to pick out a painting from Schoonover’s studios. His father chose this piece, an illustration from the 1923 Ralph D. Paine book Privateers of ’76. Debra Force’s appraisal? $125,000. “My father would be so thrilled to know that people were being turned on to illustrations,” the tearful owner replied. “And my mother would be really thrilled at what you just said.”

Tang Dynasty Marble Lion

At an Antiques Roadshow installment filmed in Albuquerque in 2002, a woman brought a marble lion her grandparents had picked up on a trip to China. Lark Mason, the admittedly “worked up” appraiser, told the owner that the statue dated from the Tang Dynasty—the “golden period of Chinese art”—and not the Ming Dynasty, as previously estimated. Mason appraised this lion at $120,000 to $180,000, although the owner wasn’t prepared to put out a “for sale” sign just yet.

1892 H.F. Farny Watercolor and Gouache Painting

A woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, inherited a framed artwork from her grandmother and assumed it was a print, but when she opened the frame to get a mosquito out from behind the glass, she got an inkling that the artwork was real. Previous appraisals had valued the artwork at $200 and $250, but on Antiques Roadshow, appraiser Meredith Hilferty confirmed it was a genuine 1892 painting by H.F. Farny worth $200,000 to $300,000.

Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Watch and Documentation

An Air Force veteran in West Fargo, North Dakota, bought a Rolex Oyster Cosmograph watch for $346 in 1974—after noticing airline pilots wearing similar timepieces—and then stowed it and its documentation in a safety deposit box. When appraiser Peter Planes told the vet that a watch like his is now worth $400,000, the man collapsed to the ground. But because of this watch’s condition and its documentation, Planes said this specimen is actually worth even more: $500,000 to $700,000.

Mid-19th Century Navajo Ute First Phase Blanket

A man in Tucson said that American frontiersman Kit Carson gave this blanket to the foster father of his grandmother. Appraiser Donald Ellis pointed out that this blanket dates from 1840 to 1860 and represents Navajo weaving “in its purest form,” and he hailed its “unbelievable” condition. Ellis also told the man the extremely rare blanket, a “national treasure,” was worth $500,000, if not more. But by 2016, the value had increased to $750,000 to $1,000,000, as Antiques Roadshow revealed on YouTube.

Boston Red Stockings Baseball Archive

“Holy smokes” is right! A guest in New York City told appraiser Leila Dunbar that her great-great-grandmother once housed athletes from the Boston Red Stockings, some the first professional baseball players. And that’s how this woman came to own a collection of 1871 photographic baseball cards, which Dunbar deemed the “greatest archive” she had ever seen in her Roadshow days. Dunbar valued the archive at the grand-slam price of $1,000,000.